The Mellow Beauty of this Tiny Hairstreak Butterfly

Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

Come and enjoy with me. I gaze at this Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak Butterfly, it nectaring on a wildflower in the National Butterfly Center’s Perennial Garden(s). Glassberg’s Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America notes that  in South Texas this is a “C” for commonly found butterfly. True that for south Texas, but from where I’m sitting, now, south Texas is some what, 1,300 miles away?

What a sweet treat to stop and take in the mellow beauty of this tiny hairstreak butterfly. I see what I adore? Do you like the same as I love? I cannot know.

The last year has unsettled me some, and the beauty of this little gem becalms me, settles me. I know that I need more, much more of this, and I so look forward to this 2021, to deliver on that need. You too?

Mission, Texas, just a handful of miles from the Mexican-Texas border.


Unsolved Mysteries at White Tank Mountains Park

Darner-type fly, photographed by Jeff Zablow in White Tank Mts. Regional Park, AZ

You and I don’t like unsolved mysteries. For me, field work in distant habitat often ends with questions that go long unanswered. Some, perhaps you, often make friends with far-flung butterfly, moth, bird, snake, orchid, wildflower, big cat or others whose knowledge and breadth of field work ranks them as regional or national or international experts.

I’ve been blessed to have met some, but maybe I’ve not met as many as I’d like to have met. Phil, Rose & Jerry, Mike, Barbara Ann A”H (OBM”), Nancy & John, Angela, Dave, Jerry and Virginia shared and impressed. 2021 beckons, and several new possibilities beckon. For that, I am, even at this point in my life’s journey, very excited.

I met this insect in that forbidden (signs said do not enter at your own risk (risk of flash flooding)) arroyo west of Phoenix, Arizona. I was in my search for butterflies, there just a very limited number of plants in flower, that summer, with the temperature reaching the upper ’90’s, around 10 A.M.. It flew in, was not a butterfly but, was beautiful and of course, I shot away. It fed on nectar, allowed me to shoot it, and soon left.

I expect that I will never know the species name and common name of this animal. I’m uncomfortable ‘researching it online’ for I’m never sure that I’ve correctly determined the species. I do want to have those who are deep in knowledge of such species to help, but I don’t know who they are, it is Arizona, thousands of miles away from the desk in Macon, and . . . .


Wildflower Meet-Up

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow at Pigeon Mountain, GA

Sure I used to search for butterflies, and little noticed the wildflowers I passed. That was then, and well, this is now. I readily identify almost all of the the eastern butterflies that I meet. My search in 2019 will be a much more selective one, compared say to my field work in 2009.

Why? I’ve seen some thousands of Eastern tailed blues, Pearl crescents, Commas, Eastern tiger swallowtails, Great spangled fritillaries and Orange sulphur butterflies. Amazingly, I’ve now scored lots of Zebra swallowtails, Pipevine swallowtails, Gulf and Variegated fritillaries, Giant swallowtails and even Mourning cloak butterflies. When I see them, I don’t ignore them. What I do is run a 1/1,000th of a second scan of each and only stop if the results are fresh, handsome and complete (no wing damage or significant scale loss). This because my own library of slides and images now sports good images of a whole lot of butterflies.

All this allows me more time to stop and admire wildflowers, especially ones that I don’t know. Hauling field guides with me challenges the mule in me, and Jeff, TBTold, will never be adept with using his cell phone to ID wildflowers as so many do. Would that Barbara Ann, Angela, Ellen, Curt, Virginia, Roger, Dave and Phil were with me each time, for they know what they see . . .

This pert wildflower captured my attention on Pigeon Mountain, in the northwest corner of Georgia.  These meet-ups puzzle and challenge. (‘Have we met before?’) What say you to it?


Winter Antidotes II

Monarch Butterfly    photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at
Christmas, Chanukah and now New Years has sailed by us, it seems. Home here in Pittsburgh we are enjoying a 60F day . . . but we have to brace ourselves, for 2 days from now, forecasts are for a high of 19F. Have no fear though, we are here  with another therapeutic image.

This fine example of a Monarch butterfly (Danaus Plexippus) is enough to stir the hearts of millions of Americans and Canadians. Monarchs by the tens of millions are now in central Mexico, mostly dormant in those gigantic fir trees that house them for the next several months.

Did we have a scare last year? You bet we did. Numbers during June and July were scary. August provided some relief, and that one day I counted 11 Monarchs in Doak field in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Eleven in a single morning was good. Good.

The spotlight in now on the resurgence of Monarchs to historically strong numbers. They are loved by 30,000,000 or more North Americans, and efforts are being made to remedy any and every obstacle to their success here.

The days tick by, sunset is a bit later each week, and soon, real soon, we can open our eyes and again stare at a shmeksy monarch like this one, she nectaring seriously on Joe Pye Weed wildflowers. We can once again stand there, trying to fathom  how this delicate gem of an animal will navigate the warm air currents from Pennsylvania, or Georgia or Toronto, all the way south to Louisiana, and inevitably south again to the center of Mexico.

Hang in there friends, they’ll be here sooner than you think.


Gray Hairstreak on Goldenrod

Gray Hairstreak butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 9/21/06

Whatever it is that puts that look in your amiga’s eyes when attractive male leads take center screen…here is another handsome figure, capable of that same star power. September 21st finds him in Nichol field, the 100 acre +/- field in Raccoon Creek  State Park, southwestern Pennsylvania. Set out before him are tens of acres of goldenrod, so there is no need to rush. That calm helped me, too, for he wasn’t apprehensive or reluctant to my approach.

Savor his many fine details. Two pairs of hindwing tails, rich reddish patch, with black dot on each hindwing border, well-defined post median dash-line in 3 distinct colors, that smart orangish leading edge on his forewings, the orange club tips on each antenna, those pookie eyes, the grays of the wings, that last so typical of his fellow hairstreaks.

Favored with a taste for all sorts of nectars, this adaptive feature brings them to a very great variety of wild flowering and garden plants. Strymon melinus flies in the east, from Maine to the Keys, from as early as April to as late as Novemeber…and is aloft all year in southern Florida.

Gray hairstreaks are small butterflies, but bestowed with much beauty. May I ask THE question? Have you seen one? Won’t cost a cent, and will bring much Yes! into your life.

Oh yes, they are not too difficult to find. Once you find a fresh one, truth be told, they often pose quite well, and move methodically from one look to another, so good images can be additional reward. ‘Nough said?